Short Term Solutions to a Long Term Problem

The wife exclaims: “Don’t you think that whether or not we are 100% sure that your urine has affected my side of the bed that it would behoove you to cease despoiling our honeymoon bed?”

Quoth the husband: “Well it would be extradorinarily inconvenient for me to leave this comfortable and warm (increasingly warm) bed to use the toilet. And we still don’t know for sure that my urine is causing you a problem. I can certainly imagine how filling the bed with biological fluids could cause problems but I can also imagine scenarios where the very absorbant bed materials could just soak up the offending pollutant and store it. If that were the case then we could leave the problem for the next guests to deal with.”

This was excerpted from a brilliant comment on the linked blog entry from Paul Kedrosky. The fact of the matter is, when it comes to environmental considerations it is generally a bad idea to trust businessmen to make good decisions. In fact, I will go one step further and say that it’s blatantly unfair to ask that of them. If you’re in business you are, first and foremost, responsible to your stakeholders, be they your family, your Board of Directors, or the shareholders of your publicly-traded company. Those stakeholders, like most human beings, desire results that they can see, which means results that happen significantly faster than a human lifetime.

Environmental considerations, especially those related to global warming, are never going to have that kind of turnaround time. If a socially-responsible businessman (or politician, which for this discussion is pretty much the same thing) puts systems into place to curb carbon emissions, there may very well be incredible profits that result from his efforts . . . in sixty to one hundred years. Not the kind of timeframe that will keep his job.

The better way to address issues of global warming is to take the responsibility for it away from those that are accountable to stakeholders, and their short-term needs. Do we know, for a fact, that we are having a negative effect upon the Earth’s climate? No, but neither can the husband in the above example know for certain that his bedwetting is making his wife warm and wet. No one has given me any evidence that it would be bad for the environment if we take efforts to curb our emissions. If the responsibility for implementing long-term policies is given to a body that is appointed, perhaps for long terms like the Federal Reserve, then those of us who must meet short-term needs in order to survive can merrily curse up a blue streak about those SOBs and then just go about our business, doing the right thing whether we want to or not.

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